Cooper Gardner

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Phoenix residents, mayor and police vow to build solutions in Black Lives Matter meeting

PHOENIX – A teacher vowed to educate her students on race and social justice.

A young man promised to lead children to treat others fairly.

And Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton pledged to hire a diverse police force.

The promises, written on note cards, came after about 500 people, including residents, Stanton, and police leaders attended a discussion earlier this week at Phillips Memorial CME Church.

The Rev. Reginald Walton, who hosted the event, said the point of “Moving Phoenix Forward” was to come up with solutions to an ongoing impasse over race.

“At some point in time, we have to come together and start working on solutions.”

Stanton and Assistant Police Chief Mike Kurtenbach answered written questions ranging from a plea to train officers to interact better with the public and provide transparency if officers are accused of police misconduct.

Kurtenbach said the meeting was a first step in an ongoing conversation.

“As we walk out of here tonight, no one’s going to pat themselves on the back and say we’re done. This is how it starts.”

A couple of people in the crowd that filled the church tried to shout comments but Walton asked people to follow a format of writing their questions on note cards and handing them to Phoenix officials.

Stanton defended the police department, saying it needs to improve but was recently praised by Attorney General Loretta Lynch for its approach to community policing.

Stanton mentioned that the department will hire 400 officers in the next few months, with diversifying the force in mind.

“We want the department to be as reflective as the incredible diversity that we are blessed to have in the community,” Stanton said.

Walton, as the meeting ended, asked everyone to write down on note cards what they would do to provide bring justice and equality to the city.

The meeting ended with references to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

“The change we seek, begins with me,” Walton told the audience.

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